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Murray: Djokovic-Nadal Australian Open final led to crackdown on slow play

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Andy Murray supports the ATP’s crackdown on slow play, but he says the 25 seconds that players are allotted between points isn’t enough.

Here’s how the ATP described the rule change for 2013: “A time violation between points (25 seconds) will be penalized in the first instance with a warning. For the second and all subsequent violations, the penalty will be a fault for the server and a point penalty for the receiver. Currently [in 2012], the rule is a warning and then point penalty for both the server and receiver.” According to ATP CEO Brad Drewett, the lighter penalty for servers “will give officials a useful tool and allow for more consistent enforcement of the current time violation rule.”

Murray suggested that 30 seconds would be preferable for the players.

“Twenty-five seconds goes by really, really quick when you’re on the court,” Murray said after his semifinal victory at the Brisbane International on Saturday. “All it takes is a shoelace to come undone and you’re out of time.  Guys have been getting warnings when they change their racket for breaking a string or whatever.  That’s also not right.”

Murray said the rule is a “huge advantage” for the returner.

“The returner can just get to the line and just stand there and say that he’s ready,” Murray said, “whereas the sever, 99 percent of the players bounce the ball three or four times before their serve. That’s when guys are getting the penalties, when they’re actually bouncing.  I got one the other day while I was bouncing a ball.”

Whatever the rule is, Murray wants to see it strictly enforced regardless of the circumstances.

“I think it’s wrong that people say they [the chair umpires] have to give a bit of leeway if there is a long point,” Murray said. “I think that’s when the person who is physically stronger gains an advantage. They should be recovering in a certain amount of time.”

Yeah, this time violation business is going to be a sticky point as the ATP season progresses. I saw Kei Nishikori get a time violation in Brisbane after his opponent, Alexandr Dolgopolov, went to change rackets. There has to be a way to codify common sense.

Interestingly, Murray says the impetus for stricter enforcement stems from last year’s Australian Open final, which Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal contested for almost six hours. ESPN.com’s Kamakshi Tandon estimated that Djokovic and Nadal added 70 minutes to the match because of repeated violations of the time rule, which is 20 seconds between points at Grand Slam tournaments. But Murray is quick to remind everyone that spectators thoroughly enjoyed that match, time violations or not.

“We were told the reason for them changing the rule is because of the Aussie Open final last year, which I think everyone agrees was a classic match,” Murray said. “Right now, that match is getting shown whenever there is a delay or someone has pulled out or something, so it’s not like the TV [executives] hated the match and they’re never going to show it again.”

  • Published On Jan 07, 2013
  • 7 comments
    Michael9
    Michael9

    25 seconds between points is more than ample time, and the ATP rule is 20 seconds. Once players get used to their time violations being penalized by umpires, the two or three serial offenders will learn to play faster. It is a form of cheating that needs to stop.

     

    Tournament conditions today are already easier for the Djokovic-Nadal-Murray generation (compared to previous tennis eras): they play on relatively homogenized surfaces, they don't have to play best-of-five sets in tournament finals outside the grand slams, they get a bye in the first round of tournaments outside the grand slams, they tend to play less tennis events and matches each season, the tennis season ends earlier than in past eras -- and now Murray wants to extend the time between points. Life is good for this generation.

     

    Federer also bounces the ball before serving -- he bounces about three times with his racquet and then bounces another two to four times with his left hand -- yet he usually takes about 15 seconds to serve. If Federer and other players can play well within 25 seconds, so can everybody else. So Murray's claim is misleading: “whereas the sever, 99 percent of the players bounce the ball three or four times before their serve. That’s when guys are getting the penalties, when they’re actually bouncing.  I got one the other day while I was bouncing a ball.” The offending servers are bouncing the ball excessively and/or taking their time to get to their service position.

     

    Of course there are a few instances when the time rule is misapplied (such as the Nishikori-Dologopolov incident) -- but these are exceptions, not the norm so let’s not exaggerate their occurrences as an excuse to do away with the time violation. The vast majority of time violations do legitimately penalize players who are too slow. As Nguyen said, there has to be a way to codify common sense for things like strings breaking. Or excessive time taken to tie shoe laces or towel off.

     

    The stats between the following two matches were similar yet the Nadal-Djokovic match lasted about 1.5 hours longer. Based on Kamakshi Tandon's estimates that Djokovic-Nadal added 70 minutes to the match because of repeated violations of the time rule -- and the faster pace between points that Federer-Delpo played -- we can assume that the 1.5 hour gap is wasted time.

     

    - Djokovic-Nadal 2012 Australian Open final: 55 games, 369 points, 353 minutes.

     

    - Federer-Del Potro 2012 Olympic semifinal: 58 games, 366 points, 267 minutes.

    http://tinyurl.com/axey4z4

    http://tinyurl.com/9wa7jmg

     

    Contrary to Murray's claim, not everyone "thoroughly enjoyed (the 2012 Australian Open final), time violations or not." As a discussion on 2012's best matches pointed out: 'Rothenberg: "I know, I know, the Australian Open final between Djokovic and Nadal was incredibly long and intense... The Aussie final was more of a Sisyphean stalemate that lasted nearly six hours, and I’m not sure I want to put myself through that again."... Nguyen: "I agree with all of you on the Australian Open men’s final, which was high stakes and at times high quality. But in the end I did not find a six-hour match like that entertaining in the least. Kind of hard to call something the best match of the year when you find yourself praying for it to just … end."... Gudris: "Though I agree with Amy that Djokovic-Murray in the U.S. Open final was just OK, I still think Djokovic-Nadal in the Australian Open final gets my vote for most overrated match of 2012. Mainly because it will continue to be lauded as an epic when really it was just very, very long." ' (see link). And this by the Oregonian's Douglas Perry: "Trust me, the 2012 Australian Open final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will not be remembered as a classic match."

    http://tennis.si.com/2012/11/15/atp-wta-best-matches-of-2012/

     

    badgernation74
    badgernation74

    I agree with Murray that there needs to be some common sense involved. Tennis is an individual sport (even for doubles) in the sense that if your shoelace comes undone or your string breaks, you can't pass the ball to a teammate. But in general, I do like the idea of an on-court play clock or shot clock. 30-35 seconds seems about right. Players will adjust. Can't you see the crowd at Wimbledon counting down 5,4,3,2,1.... buzzzz. I'd love that!

    shackle52
    shackle52

    Whether TV executives loved or hated the match is not the point. There is no way the sport can tolerate matches over 5 hours. Whatever entertainment value is completely lost. I heard many folks were just wanting it to be over, regardless of who they were supporting. "Just End It" is not a helpful counter to "Just Do It".

    usable.thought
    usable.thought

    I wonder if the reason umpires are giving stupid warnings for time volations (like the one cited in this post) is simply because trying to keep track of # many seconds ticking away is just one task too many? In other words the time rule is not just a distraction for players, it's a distraction for umps too. And the inherent vagueness of the rule adds to the cognitive overload for the ump. 

    Michael9
    Michael9

    Oops, I meant to say "the grand slam rule is 20 seconds."

     

    Murray's view that the time limit should be increased to 30 seconds is self-serving:  Murray, Djokovic and Nadal have games based on longer and more brutal rallies to wear down their opponents by attrition. It's likely that 30 seconds is the average recovery time that Murray feels is optimal for his game. These players have been benefiting from lax enforcement of the time rule. Strict enforcement of the 20 second and 25 second rules will force such players to win more efficiently and level the playing field -- as well as make tennis more exciting for the majority of spectators.

     

    Finally, someone should take a stop watch to clock the exact amount of time that Djokovic-Nadal (AO final) and Federer-Delpo (Olympic SF) actually spent playing points in their respective matches. It would be damning if the results show that Fed-Delpo played more tennis in 1.5 hours less time than Nole-Rafa did.

    usable.thought
    usable.thought

     @badgernation74 My problem with a shot clock becoming the focus of audience, player, and umpire attention is exactly that. In basketball, OK, I can see a shot clock - it prevents teams from holding the ball, makes for higher scoring, etc. But in tennis you would have none of those positive benefits and the clock itself would become a distraction. There needs to be a better solution, even if no one has come up with it yet. 

    usable.thought
    usable.thought

     @Michael9 Why is it "damning"? What do you think it's "cheating"? The umps let players take more time, so players take more time. It's a systemic issue, not a moral one. Players bend rules all the time in sports to the degree they are allowed to, whether it's soccer, American football, race car driving, or what have you. Tennis is no different.